In the couple of years since I saw “The World of Extreme Happiness” as part of Goodman’s New Stages festival, the humor has become a little sharper, the production has grown notably grander, but the tone has remained personal, almost intimate, despite the sweeping topics it addresses. To demonstrate the inescapable dreariness of a peasant girl in rural China whose dreams of financial success turn toward loftier horizons, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s script exhibits nearly as many facets as the oft-mentioned, ever-changing Monkey King. Family melodrama, broad humor, sloganeering and a little gore combine to reveal country girl Sunny’s dream of modern urban life as a horrendous and hopeless nightmare.
If you’re past a certain age in Sunny’s stark and bleak contemporary China, you’ve already been crushed and or compromised, if you weren’t corrupt all along. Sound like a place you know? Some are crushed and corrupted in comfort—like the affluent, powerful pair whose machinations lead to the PR stunt with which this show climaxes—while those less fortunate compromise for the smallest reward: a coercive hand job on the factory floor, or some cash in exchange for marrying off your daughter. The young’uns we meet, aiming for the stars, meet degradation of the lowest order. Suckered in by their own dreams, and the hucksterism of upward mobility, today’s youth from the country are no less grist for the big-city mill than the victims of Mao that the crusty old factory hand bemoans. Read the rest of this entry »